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Stock Analyst Update

Unilever's Purchase of Seventh Generation Makes Sense

The acquisition gives this wide-moat consumer-product maker additional exposure to premium-priced products, which should round out the price mix of company's household and personal care portfolio.


 Unilever is to acquire Seventh Generation, a North American household and personal care product manufacturer, for an undisclosed amount. With the target's sales likely to be around $250 million this year, we believe Unilever could have paid close to $1 billion. For Unilever, we reiterate our wide moat and stable trend ratings, our EUR 40 and $44 fair value estimates for the Amsterdam-listed ordinary shares and ADRs, respectively, and our GBX 3,250 and $44 fair value estimates for the London-traded ADRs. 

The acquisition makes strategic sense for Unilever. Seventh Generation's household and personal care products contain fewer chemicals and use recycled packaging, which appeals to the environmentally conscious consumer. Although it is still a fairly niche category (at around 5% of the household detergent category), natural cleaning products are growing at a low-double-digit rate and offer one of the few premiumisation opportunities in a category that we believe will be susceptible to trading down in the long term. Store brand competition tends to be higher and pricing power weaker for products that are perceived to offer little consumption utility and are not consumed in social settings. Natural cleaning products, therefore, may add significant value to the environmentally conscious consumer.

This is evident in the sometimes hefty price premium achieved by natural household products at retail. We estimate that across the portfolio, Seventh Generation can sell at a premium of around 20% to competitive brands and a 60% premium to private label. U.S. sales of the brand are roughly equal to those of close competitors Mrs. Meyer's and Method in aggregate. While we do not believe this acquisition alone moves the needle on Unilever's valuation, we think the additional exposure to premium price points should drive a greater contribution from price/mix in the company's household and personal care portfolio (57% of 2015 sales).

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Philip Gorham does not own shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.